The NewsFuror

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The day of the General: •Musharraf to run for president in uniform •Petitioners, lawyers’ leaders livid

ISLAMABAD, Sept 28: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed on technical grounds petitions against Gen Pervez Musharraf holding two offices, giving a legal boost to the president to contest the election for the second term in uniform.

It was a majority (six-three) verdict by a nine-member bench headed by Justice Rana Bhagwandas.

The bench threw out the petitions challenging the dual offices of the army chief and the president held by Gen Musharraf, declaring that these were not maintainable. In other words, the merit of the cases which had been debated for two weeks along with the issue of maintainability, became irrelevant as the majority of judges dismissed the challenge by declaring that the petitions could not be entertained at this forum.

After suffering a series of setbacks from the superior judiciary over the past few months, such as the restoration of the chief justice, acceptance of Nawaz Sharif’s right to return from exile and bail to Javed Hashmi, President Musharraf received the first good news from the Supreme Court.

Government supporters termed the verdict a ‘great victory’ and said the day clearly belonged to Gen Musharraf.

The verdict received an immediate adverse reaction inside the packed courtroom the moment the bench rose for the day. Though the short order was heard in pin drop silence by scores of lawyers and some political leaders, the courtroom echoed with slogans of ‘shame, shame’ and ‘go Musharraf go’ which later turned into real protest as lawyers and supporters of the petitioners walked out to join a much bigger crowd.

Some of the lawyers described the judgment as revival of the doctrine of necessity in the country’s chequered judicial history.

Former vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council Ali Ahmed Kurd asked lawyers to lay siege to the Election Commission on Saturday -- the day of scrutiny of nomination papers of the presidential candidates.

“For reasons to be recorded later, as per majority view of 6 to 3, the petitions are held to be not maintainable within the contemplation of Article 184(3) of the Constitution (court’s original jurisdiction under the fundamental rights),” the judgment announced by Justice Rana Bhagwandas said.

“As per minority view of Justice Rana Bhagwandas, Justice Sardar Muhammad Raza Khan and Justice Mian Shakirullah Jan, all these petitions are held to be maintainable under Article 184(3) and hereby accepted. As per majority view these petitions are hereby dismissed as not maintainable,” he said.

Attorney-General Malik Mohammad Qayyum appreciated the judgment and said it was a correct decision and the dissent in the bench reflected that judges had applied their independent mind.

Soon after the verdict, police escorted president’s counsel Sharifuddin Pirzada and the AG out of the courtroom to ensure their security from the wrath of a furious crowd outside.

Reacting to the judgment, PML (N) acting president Makhdoom Javed Hashmi said the infamous doctrine of necessity, under which all military rules had been validated by the apex court, was still continuing. “We thought the judiciary has become totally independent, but this impression proved to be wrong,” he deplored.

He announced that a campaign would be launched against the regime and for complete independence of the judiciary.

MMA parliamentarian Farid Paracha said the judgment did not reflect the aspiration of the people, rather it strengthened the rule of a military dictator. He said the people of Pakistan had rejected it, adding that the MMA would file a review petition. He said that the struggle for restoration of genuine democracy in the country would be intensified.

Supreme Court Bar Association president Munir A. Malik said it was not a verdict which had been unexpected. “Though the July 20 judgment of restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry was a step ahead, we still have a long way to go for complete independence of the judiciary. Although the judgment is disappointing, our battle is not over,” he added.

He said the three dissenting judges would always be remembered as Justice A.R. Cornelius and added that history would record its own conclusion regarding the other six judges.

Senior Advocate Hamid Khan said judges had abdicated their jurisdiction in deciding the matter, adding that the order was a continuation of the Tameezuddin and Dosso cases (in which the concept of the doctrine of necessity was introduced).

However, he said, the judgment would not dampen lawyers’ struggle which would continue till the end of dictatorship.

Advocate Akram Sheikh said that by dismissing the petitions under the cover of technicality, the Supreme Court had resurrected the infamous decision in the Maulvi Tameezuddin case dismissing the petition on technical grounds.

He said he had been asked by his client (Jamaat-i-Islami) to move a review petition against the decision which he would file on Monday.

Earlier, Advocate Akram in his arguments before the court emphasised that it was the duty of the court to scrap the uniform of President Musharraf because it had allowed him to keep the uniform. Any validation by the court, he said, would not be accepted.

Advocate Hamid Khan said President Musharraf’s holding of two offices derogated the constitutional provision of equality before the law because he was holding the gun.

A.K. Dogar said that Article 63(1-d) allowed President Musharraf to hold one office, but the President to Hold Another Office dealt with the dual-office law which was against constitutional provisions.

Abdul Hafeez Pirzada, appearing as amicus curiae, said: “We as a nation have reached the final stage of transition where there is an opportunity to all candidates for the presidential election that they would enter upon the office of the president as civilians.”

Michael Jackson 'not re-married'

Michael Jackson's spokeswoman has denied that the pop star has married his children's nanny.

Raymone Bain issued a statement on the Michael Jackson Fan Club website following several media reports that the singer had wed Grace Rwaramba.

"Wide-spreading reports regarding Michael Jackson being married are not true," the statement said.

"Documents stating otherwise are a hoax." Jackson has already been married twice and has three children.

His two eldest, Prince Michael Jackson Jr and Paris Michael Katherine Jackson, were born to his second wife Deborah Rowe.

Custody case

The singer has never revealed the identity of the mother of his youngest son, Blanket.

A British woman who claimed she was the mother of Jackson's children was recently denied a role in any custody settlement.

A Los Angeles judge said Nona Jackson, 36, from London, failed to "establish any genetic relationship".

Jackson settled a custody row with Ms Rowe over his two eldest children in September last year.

$40m Shakira gift for relief fund

A charitable foundation set up by Colombian pop star Shakira has donated $40 million (£19.6 million) to help victims of natural disasters.

The money will go towards repairing damage caused by an earthquake in Peru and a hurricane in Nicaragua.

A further $5 million (£2.46 million) will be spent on health and education in four Latin American countries.

The singer made the announcement at a New York summit on climate change organised by ex-President Bill Clinton.

Shakira, who has sold more than 50 million albums worldwide, will also host a discussion on youth activism at the Clinton Global Initiative on Saturday.

Her foundation, Latin America in Solidarity Action, was set up with fellow Colombian and Nobel Prize laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez, in a bid to combat the deaths of children.

Shakira also fronts a charity to help children who are victims of violence.

England 36-20 Tonga

England (19) 36

Tries: Sackey 2, Tait, Farrell
Cons: Wilkinson 2
Pens: Wilkinson 2
Drop-goals: Wilkinson 2
Tonga (10) 20
Tries: Hufanga, Pole
Cons: Hola 2
Pens: Hola 2

Champions England clinched a World Cup quarter-final against Australia with an ultimately convincing win over Tonga.

Tonga opened the scoring through Sukanaivalu Hufanga's sparkling try but two Paul Sackey scores helped England into a 19-10 half-time lead.

Pierre Hola's second penalty saw Tonga reduce the lead to six points.

But Mathew Tait and Andy Farrell went over to secure victory before Hale T Pole's late consolation, while Jonny Wilkinson kicked 16 points in Paris.

The England fly-half now has 222 World Cup points and is just five behind Gavin Hastings, who is the competition's all-time leading scorer with 227.

No champions had ever failed to reach the knock-out stages at the World Cup, but following their dismal start to the tournament there had been real fears England would crash out before the last eight.

They had showed signs of life in the win over Samoa but Tonga had beaten their Pacific Island rivals and then pushed South Africa right to the last whistle.

The pre-match script suggested the Sea Eagles' pace and power was likely to trouble England initially before the defending champions' set-piece ability, superior tactical game and greater fitness began to bear fruit, and so it proved.

Tonga threatened from the first whistle with Epi Taione and Finau Maka blasting into the England midfield and they took the lead after 10 minutes.

There looked to be little danger when Mark Cueto fielded a poor Tonga kick but the Sale winger dithered and Tonga captain Nili Latu wrapped him up.

Cueto held on as the ruck formed and Hola stepped up to drill the penalty between the posts, but England were level within three minutes after Tonga handled in a ruck and Wilkinson opened his account for the night.

Tonga enjoyed the best of the territory in the opening quarter and they went back in front with a fine try after 17 minutes.

Taione handed off former Newcastle team-mate Wilkinson and fed Hufanga, who beat three men before sliding over by the posts despite inside centre Olly Barkley's attempted tackle.

Hola converted but England hit back immediately with a dramatic score.

Tonga infringed as England drove at the heart of their defence from the re-start and it looked as though Wilkinson would take the shot at goal, but instead he kicked to the right wing.

The giant Joseph Vaka had left Sackey unattended and the Wasps flyer just managed to catch the ball and get it down before rolling over the dead ball line.

Wilkinson, who had spoken earlier in the week about his trouble timing his kicks with the official World Cup ball, caught his conversion attempt horribly and missed the posts by miles.

As the game moved deeper into the half England's upper hand in the set-piece began to pay dividends and Wilkinson knocked over a trademark drop-goal and a regulation penalty to put the defending champions 14-10 up.

Undaunted, Tonga went back on the attack, with the likes of Taione battering away at England's thin white line, but when Hola threw a poor pass it fell at the feet of Sackey.

He was on England's 22 but the Wasps winger has pace to burn and Hufanga gave up the chase with 30m still to go.

Wilkinson once again missed the conversion attempt to the left of the posts but England were 19-0 up and the quarter-finals were in sight.

The rain which began to hammer down during the half-time interval benefited England, who had a better kicking game and the advantage in the set-piece.

But they missed the chance to extend their lead when Wilkinson missed a kickable penalty - yet again to the left - after the battered and bloodied Lewis Moody fell victim to a high tackle by the otherwise excellent Tonga captain Latu.

The let-off boosted Tonga's morale and, after England brought on former Great Britain rugby league captain Farrell for Barkley with just under half an hour to play, they trimmed the gap with a second Hola penalty.

England looked a little rattled but within three minutes the scoreline had a very different air.

Cueto dummied his way through the Tonga defence and although he failed to find the supporting Farrell, when England switched play to the left Tait sliced over for the try.

While Wilkinson was adding the conversion to make it 26-13 England captain Phil Vickery sauntered on with the air of a gunslinger walking into "his" saloon before embracing Matt Stevens, the man who kept him out of the starting line-up.

Farrell looked fired up from his first touch and after 66 minutes he made the game safe, cutting back against the grain to score his first try for England after dummying a run-around with Wilkinson.

The Newcastle fly-half kicked the conversion and added a late drop-goal and although Pole went over for a last-gasp converted try, the champions ensured their defence of the Webb Ellis trophy will last for another week at least.

England: Lewsey; Sackey, Tait, Barkley, Cueto; Wilkinson, Gomarsall; Sheridan, Chuter, Stevens, Borthwick, Kay, Corry (capt), Moody, Easter
Replacements: Mears, Vickery, Dallaglio, Worsley, Richards, Farrell, Hipkiss.

Tonga: Lilo; Tu'ifua, Hufanga, Taione, Vaka; Hola, Tu'ipulotu; Tonga'uiha, Lutui, Pulu, Vaki, Fa'aoso, Pole, Latu (capt), Maka
Replacements: Taukafa, Taufa'ao Filise, Molitika, Afeaki, Havea, Huson Tonga'uiha, Havili.

Radical Syrian cleric 'shot dead'

A Syrian cleric suspected of recruiting foreign militants to fight in Iraq has been shot dead in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo, his aides have said.

Sheikh Mahmoud Abu al-Qaqaa was shot several times by a gunman as he left the Imam Mosque after Friday prayers.

The gunman tried to flee the scene of the shooting, but was chased by a crowd and later arrested, the aides said.

Correspondents say Abu al-Qaqaa was a charismatic Sunni cleric with thousands of radical Islamist followers in Syria.

His anti-American sermons attracted a wide audience after the US-led invasion in Iraq in 2003, and his reputation rapidly spread.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, who has interviewed the sheikh, notes that assassinations are highly unusual in Syria.

She says there are a number of stories concerning why he was killed, some of them contradictory, but adds that he does appear to have been instrumental in channelling jihadis into Iraq.

'American agent'

After the shooting, one aide to the cleric told the Associated Press that "terrorists" had killed the sheikh, whose real name was Mahmoud Qul Aghassi, for his "nationalist positions".

The one who carried out the assassination was a prisoner of the American forces in Iraq and had been released some time ago
Sheikh Samir Abu Khashbeh

Another aide, Sheikh Samir Abu Khashbeh, said the gunman had told him that he had killed the cleric "because he was an agent of the Americans".

"The one who carried out the assassination was a prisoner of the American forces in Iraq and had been released some time ago," Abu Khashbeh said. "He is known to us."

In June 2006, a group of militants killed while attempting to carry out an attack in the capital, Damascus, were found to be carrying CDs of sermons by Abu al-Qaqaa in which he called for US forces in the Middle East to be slaughtered "like cattle".

Afterwards, the sheikh denied he had called on Syrians to go to war in Iraq.

Others have claimed that Abu al-Qaqaa was an agent of the Syrian government, who was used to appease rising anti-American discontent amongst the country's Muslims and to keep the authorities informed of the activities of his fellow jihadists.

Abu al-Qaqaa is said to have kept a low profile in the last year since he was appointed head of a religious school by the Syrian government and he did not openly criticise the authorities.

The Syrian government has yet to make an official statement about the incident.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shetty questioned over Gere kiss

Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty has been questioned in India over her public kiss with Hollywood actor Richard Gere.

The 32-year-old was stopped at Mumbai Airport by officials who had no record of a court ruling that overturned a ban on her leaving the country.

Her spokesman Dale Bhagwagar said: "She called me in the middle of the night and was in tears." Officials let her continue after prolonged questioning.

Gere caused outrage in India when he embraced and kissed the star in April.

Obscenity charges

An arrest warrant had been issued for Gere soon after the incident, while Shetty also faced obscenity charges.

Legal action against the actors has been suspended by India's Supreme Court, which stops police and courts taking action until the court decides on the case's proper jurisdiction.

The Celebrity Big Brother winner had been on her way to the opening of the Miss Bollywood musical in Berlin.

"I can understand something like this if I'd committed a criminal offence," she said. "But what was my offence, when I'm just an actor going to perform a musical on foreign land?"

Gere, who is best known for appearing in the 1990 film Pretty Woman, initially dismissed the row as "nothing" but later apologised for causing any offence.

Shetty also defended the incident, saying "so much has been blown out of proportion".

BMW sets sales and profit targets

German car maker BMW has said it plans to sell more than 2 million vehicles by 2020, up from 1.4 million today.

The company will be pushing through cost savings worth 6bn euros ($8.4bn; £4.2bn) by 2012 without using job cuts, partly through better currency hedging.

Profit margins from BMW's automotive operations should exceed 8% by 2012, up from 6.3% in 2006, chief executive Norbert Reithofer said.

Motorcycle sales should also soar from 100,000 to 150,000 by 2012.

It became obvious that our competitive position was at stake
Norbert Reithofer, BMW chief

"We will continue to expand the range of products in the BMW Motorrad and the Husqvarna range," said Mr Reithofer, referring to the group's two motorcycle marques.

Action required

The announcements came as part of BMW's first strategy review since 2001.

"Yesterday's formula for success will not work in the future," said Mr Reithofer during a press conference.

"From today till 2020, we will keep our headcount stable while taking on more tasks.

"There will be more output for less input. We will focus the entire organisation on the return on capital."

BMW will aim to raise productivity by at least 5% per year, in part by producing more cars and acquire more parts in the US, its main market, where it will gear up the capacity of its Spartanburg plant to 240,000 units per year.

This should reduce the group's exposure to the weak US dollar relative to the euro.

Further acquisitions

Ahead of the announcement there had been rumours that BMW would add a fourth marque.

Such an option had been considered, but has been discounted as there were suitable takeover candidates, Mr Reithofer explained.

However, "acquisitions in principle remain on our agenda," Reithofer said.

McCartney to play culture concert

Beatles legend Sir Paul McCartney will top the bill for Liverpool's Capital of Culture celebrations.

The 65-year-old Liverpudlian has been unveiled to perform at a huge concert at Liverpool FC's Anfield stadium for the city's festivities in June.

Fellow Beatle Ringo Starr will lead the opening ceremony for the 2008 event in January at the new King's Dock Arena.

The 67-year-old drummer will appear with the Eurythmics' Dave Stewart and Ian Broudie from the Lightning Seeds.

Other famous Liverpudlians taking part in the culture events include comedian Ken Dodd and conductor Sir Simon Rattle.

Events which have already been confirmed are an exhibition of Gustav Klimt's work at Tate Liverpool and an opera based around the city's famous Adelphi Hotel.

Opening the launch event via a video message to the audience at Tate Liverpool on Thursday, Sir Paul said: "I'm very excited about Liverpool being the European Capital of Culture in 2008.

"We have a fantastic series of events which are sure to get you excited too. I'm very proud of the city and I look forward to welcoming you all and showing you a good time.

"It's going to be a great year."

Liverpool Culture Company chief executive Jason Harborow said: "We want to do Liverpool proud, we want to do Britain and Europe proud.

"We hope to leave a model for other cities as to how culture can make a difference to the way we live."

A revamped Capital of Culture board was announced earlier this month.

The board was reorganised following the cancellation of much of the Mathew Street Festival in August.

Brookside and Hollyoaks creator Phil Redmond is now the creative force behind next year's celebrations.

Mammoth hair produces DNA bounty

A rapid technique for isolating DNA in hair has yielded a mass of new information about woolly mammoths.

An international research team says the process should work on other extinct animals, allowing their genetics to be studied in detail for the first time.

The mammoth DNA was taken from the hair shaft which was long thought to be a poor source for the "life molecule".

But the group tells Science magazine that the shaft's keratin material slows degradation and limits contamination.

"The idea has been that all the DNA is in the root and that the shaft is DNA-void, or of much lower quality," explained co-worker Dr Tom Gilbert from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

"This is why when we screened a whole load of mammoths, we thought we might be lucky if we took enough hair from one of them. Basically, for every mammoth we tried, it worked. That blew us away," he told.

Hair and hooves

The traditional route to DNA in ancient samples is through bones and preserved muscle, but any genetic material usually falls apart very soon after death and is prone to contamination from bacteria.

Having a new route to large quantities of well-preserved DNA should be a real boon to scientific research, Gilbert and colleagues say.

The team read the DNA using an established technology known as "sequencing-by-synthesis" - but its application to hair in the context of ancient samples is novel.

"The reason we think hair is so great comes down to the fact that as a structure, hair is made out of this material called keratin," explained Dr Gilbert, who works out of Copenhagen's Center for Ancient Genetics.

"It's a kind of protein that in a very simplistic sense can be viewed as a plastic that the DNA gets embedded in and surrounded by and protected by."

The scientists think the approach will also work for other items built from the durable protein, such as horns, nails, antlers, hooves and even feathers.

They say museum collections must hold countless specimens of recently extinct creatures from which researchers would love to get genetic information but had never bothered because they believed their DNA to be corrupted and beyond analysis.

Ice mummies

Gilbert and colleagues targeted the mammoths' mitochondrial DNA, a special type of DNA frequently used to measure the genetic diversity of populations - how closely different groups of organisms are related to each other.

Where previously only two mitochondrial genomes had been published, the Science paper reports the production of 10 new genomes, including one from the very first mammoth that was studied - the so-called Adams mammoth, which was found in 1799 and has been stored at room temperature for the last 200 years.

"From our experience working with old samples, the colder a sample has been preserved the better the quality of DNA. So, we're looking at permafrost animals -woolly rhino, for example.
"There are also a lot of old bison and horse mummies turning up in the permafrost. It's not just animals, there are humans [too]; there are a lot of mummies around the world with hair, ranging from Egypt, South America to the more cold, better-preserved ones in Greenland."

Asked the classic question about whether it would be possible to clone any extinct creatures back into existence, Dr Gilbert said that even if the full genetic sequence of a mammoth could be retrieved, the technology did not currently exist to turn that biochemical information into a live animal.

Chelsea charged over Man Utd game

The Football Association has charged Chelsea for failing to control their players during the 2-0 defeat away at Manchester United on Sunday.

Assistant boss Steve Clarke has also been charged with using abusive and/or insulting words towards officials.

Chelsea were incensed by referee Mike Dean's decision to send off Nigerian midfielder Mikel Jon Obi in the first half for a challenge on Patrice Evra.

Chelsea and Clarke have until 12 October to respond to the charges.

The Blues contested Mikel's red card, but the FA rejected their appeal and his three-match ban was upheld.

England captain John Terry has not been sanctioned, after he appeared to grab Dean's red card as he was sending Mikel off.

Reports suggested Dean had included Terry's actions in his official report, but only Chelsea and Clarke have been charged by the FA.

The last 18 months have seen Chelsea embroiled in a series of run-ins with the English game's governing body.

In April 2006, they were fined £10,000 for the same charge of failing to control players after members of the team surrounded referee Mark Halsey during a match against West Brom.

They were given a further £10,000 fine and warned as to their future conduct by an FA disciplinary commission after again being found guilty of failing to control their players during a 1-0 Premiership defeat at Fulham, a charge which the club had denied.

Last season Chelsea were handed a £100,000 fine and reprimanded for their part in a brawl with Arsenal players during the Carling Cup final.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Beyond the pale?

One of Bollywood's biggest film stars is being criticised by Asian campaigners for promoting a skin-lightening cream - a product that is now on the shelves of British shops.

The 40-second advertisement from India starts like so many others promoting razors or hair dye - but it's an ad with a very big difference.

There's a man who has no luck with the girls. He has markedly darker skin than his friends and the girl he is after. In a real song-and-dance Bollywood extravaganza, one of the biggest heart throbs of Indian cinema, Shahrukh Khan, hands over a cream to the hapless chap, along with some mild admonishment.

Within a few weeks, the young man has turned much lighter-skinned and confident. As he strides down the road like a modern-day answer to John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever, the girls start flocking to him and chanting: "Hi handsome, hi handsome." Khan comes back into view with the product, Fair and Handsome.

The skin-lightening cream for men, along with its more feminine counterparts, has found its way into Asian supermarkets and stores in the UK.

While Khan's advert has not been shown yet in the UK, it too has made its way to British consumers via YouTube. And the product's success or failure in the British market place may say something about the nature of beauty and the politics of race.

Kiran Kaur - a Sikh human rights activist in west London, one of the epicentres of Asian cultural life in the UK - says the arrival of Fair and Handsome, with a Bollywood name in tow, is a step back in time.

'Age-old prejudices'

"The ad simply reinforces the idea that you've got to be fair to be anything in life," says Kiran. "It says that if you're fair and good looking, you'll be a wonderful daughter-in-law or husband, your skin colour determines how successful you'll be in life. The ad reinforces age-old prejudices."

The skin-lightening industry is worth at least £100m in India and the Fair-and-Handsome-for-Men range is the latest product from one of the market's big players.

Manufacturers say they are responding to a demand, but in recent years protests in India have seen at least one advert taken off air. Other lightening products targeted at black women have been on sale for years, some of them containing chemicals banned for years from British goods.

Actress Rani Moorthy knows first hand about the prejudice suffered by Asians with darker skin.
She is currently touring the UK with her play that focuses on skin colour, Shades of Brown.

"When I was a child my grandmother took me to one side and said make sure you're good at something, no man will ever marry you for your looks," she says.

"I knew this was because I was dark skinned. It was treated as a disease and every Friday I had to have oil baths in an attempt to lighten my skin".

'A huge star'

She feels a major Bollywood star backing a skin-lightening cream will intensify the prejudice that already exists within the South Asian community, in which the darker skinned can find themselves looked down upon - just as it still happens in parts of India today.

"Deep within this 5,000-year-old culture is the thought that high ideals, nobility and high caste are associated with fair skin," she says. "Dark skin is regarded as low status and low caste."

But what chance do voices like Rani's stand against the screen presence of Shahrukh Khan?
Perhaps the best measure of Khan's influence on British Asians is to look at the success of his films.

Dil Se, released in 1998, was the first Bollywood movie to make it into the British box office Top 10.

The film's key clips, including an exhilarating dance upon a moving train, have totted up more than one million hits on YouTube. Khan, a big enough brand to be known just as SRK, is the equivalent of Tom Cruise - and then some.

His Fair-and-Handsome advert won't be missed by British Asians as they follow every Bollywood move, says Sunny Hundal, the editor of Asians in Media, a website that charts the rise of British Asian culture.


"Shahrukh Khan is a huge star in India and his endorsement will no doubt raise the profile of this product," he says. "Impressionable young men will get the idea that if they want to be attractive like him, they should also use it."

"The cult of media personality, especially cricket or Bollywood stars, is a much bigger phenomena in India and so brands are much more partial to celebrity endorsements.

"But what SRK is essentially doing is confirming and promoting the condescending attitude that many Indians have towards dark-coloured skin. His endorsement is completely immoral."

Neither the manufacturers nor a spokesman for Khan would comment on his involvement in the campaign.

But Manish Shah, a distributor for Fair and Handsome says skin lightening creams are very important because "everybody wants to look really good".

"They're not bad for the skin," he says. "If people have an inferiority complex because of their skin colour, then this product will really help. It does what it says. It makes you fair and handsome. There's a lot of interest in this product and quite simply it makes people look really good."

Apple warning on unlocked iPhones

Apple has warned that anyone attempting to unlock their iPhone to use with an unauthorised mobile network could find their phones irreparably damaged.

The company said that modified mobiles would become "permanently inoperable" once Apple updates were installed.

It follows a flurry of hacks claiming to unlock the phone, which is tied into the US AT&T network and O2 in the UK.

Apple has denied that it is "doing anything proactively to disable iPhones that have been hacked or unlocked".

Cat and mouse

The warning will be seen as a pre-emptive strike by Apple in the ongoing battle with hackers who are increasingly making unlocking software available to iPhone users.

Unlocking the phone allows iPhone owners to use the phone with the network operator of their choice rather than the authorised ones chosen by Apple.

iPhone RingToneMaker
- one of several unauthorised programs allowing users to customise their own ringtones
Blackjack - first unauthorised casino game for the iPhone
Voicemail button - allows users to reinstall voicemail functionality for unlocked phones
Global Positioning System - not a feature on authorised phones but a hack exists to add Navizon Virtual GPS
Auto Sync - a program from StandAlone that allows users to automatically update addresses, calendar and bookmarks

"Apple is saying that if you buy the iPhone and unlock it, you could preclude yourself from getting new features. Apple updates might not install properly and you could find that you own a £270 brick," said Ben Wood, director of research firm CCS Insight.
At the launch of the iPhone in the UK, Apple boss Steve Jobs admitted that the firm was engaged in a "game of cat and mouse" with the hackers. He added jokingly: "We're not sure if we are the cat or the mouse."

Unlocking the phone has also created a growing market for unauthorised applications, including wallpaper and ringtones.

Mr Wood said he thought the way Apple was marketing the iPhone had made hacks inevitable.
"It set the challenge that the iPhone was unbreakable and the temptation was too much. A small army of hackers started work on this project as soon as it was launched," he said.

The fact that the iPhone can be bought off the shelf without signing up to a mobile contract, coupled with the decision to launch it with a single operator in the US and the UK, have added to the reasons why hackers are keen to open the platform up, said Mr Wood.

Apple is planning to release its next software update - which will allow users to purchase music from the iTunes store via a button on the iPhone - next week.

It has said it wants to "continuously delight" users with new iPhone features.

Soggy summer boosts UK box office

The dismal weather has contributed to the season's best UK box office numbers in 40 years, according to new figures.

More than 50m cinema visits were made in June to August - a 27% increase on the same period in 2006.

The wettest summer since records began in 1914 and the coldest August boosted indoor entertainment, said the Film Distributors' Association (FDA).

The biggest attractions over the summer were the latest outings from Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean.

'Broad population'

The Simpsons big screen outing took third place, with Shrek The Third and Spider-Man 3 in fourth and fifth.

Transformers, The Bourne Ultimatum, Die Hard 4.0, Ocean's Thirteen and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer made up the bottom half of the top 10.

Foreign language films also performed well at the UK box office over the summer, with Germany's The Lives of Others, France's Tell No One and La Vie En Rose and Hindi language film Partner attracting more than one million admissions each.

A "very broad population" made visits to the cinema in the last three months, according to the FDA.

The organisation's Chief Executive Mark Batey called the summer's box office figures "sensational" and "unprecedented".

"It's thrilling that so many people have enjoyed the uniquely immersive, high quality experience of the cinema this summer," he added.

Phil Spector jury fails to decide

The jury in the murder trial of music producer Phil Spector has been sent home after failing to reach a verdict.

The judge in Los Angeles has declared a mistrial. Prosecutors have said they will seek a new trial.

Mr Spector faces between 15 years and life imprisonment if found guilty of murdering actress Lana Clarkson at his home in 2003.

He has pleaded not guilty to second degree murder, and his lawyers have argued that it was a case of suicide.


The jury had been deliberating since 10 September in a trial that lasted more than four months.

The jurors said they were split 10 to two - but it was not clear which way they were leaning.

The jury had already announced once that it had failed to come to a unanimous decision, on 18 September, when the panel was split seven to five.

Second degree murder falls between first degree murder, which requires proof of pre-meditation, and manslaughter.

Ms Clarkson, 40, had been working as a hostess at the House of Blues venue in Los Angeles, where she met Spector on the night of her death.

The actress accompanied Mr Spector to his home in the early hours of the morning but was later found in his foyer after having been shot in the mouth.

A holster matching the snub-nosed Colt Cobra revolver that killed Ms Clarkson was found in a drawer in the foyer.


Ms Clarkson had been working at the nightclub after struggling to find acting roles, and the trial had heard how she was despondent about her career in the months before her death.

Mr Spector's Brazilian chauffeur Adriano De Souza said at the trial that he heard a "pow" at about 5am. His boss emerged from the house several minutes later and told him: "I think I killed somebody," the driver testified.

But less than 24 hours after the shooting, Mr De Souza was asked by police if he could recall Mr Spector's exact words. "I think so. I think, I'm not sure. It's my English," he said.

One of the crucial questions is whether the forensic evidence proves Mr Spector was close enough to the victim to have been able to shoot her in the mouth.

Mr Spector's lawyer Linda Kenney-Baden told jurors the absence of gunshot residue and blood from his sleeves showed he had not fired the fatal shot.

The judge set a hearing to decide how the case will now proceed on 3 October.

Mr Spector has worked with some of the biggest names in the music business, including the Beatles, and is famous for pioneering the "Wall of Sound" recording technique in the 1960s.

US to review Iraq security firms

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has ordered a review of the way private security firms operate in Iraq and the oversight given by the US military.

The move follows an incident earlier this month involving US security firm Blackwater, in which 11 Iraqis died.

The Iraqi government reacted by briefly suspending the firm, and drafting new laws regulating private security.

A Pentagon spokesman said Mr Gates had "real concerns" and wanted to ensure contractors worked within US rules.

About 7,000 private security contractors work for the Pentagon in Iraq.

The US state department also employs three separate security firms to protect diplomats and important sites within Iraq.

'Means and resources'

Addressing the Senate Appropriations Committee on Wednesday, Mr Gates said that his concern was "whether there has been sufficient accountability and oversight" of contractors.

He said the Pentagon had sufficient legal authority to oversee private security firms but that the issue was whether commanders on the ground had sufficient "means and resources" to exercise those powers.

The defence secretary was giving testimony to Congress as he requested $190bn (£94bn) in funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2008.

Mr Gates on Sunday sent a five-person fact-finding team to Iraq to examine the issue of private security contractors more closely.

A US-Iraqi panel is already investigating the shooting, which provoked widespread anger in Iraq and prompted the Iraqi government to order a temporary halt to Blackwater's operations in the country.

Blackwater USA has said its guards reacted lawfully to an attack on a US diplomatic convoy.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale in Washington says that while the incident involving Blackwater is at the centre of inquiries, the intervention of Mr Gates suggests that concerns may go much further.

'Clear rules'

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said Mr Gates had already begun asking questions about private contractors in Iraq and the answers relating to oversight had "not been satisfactory".

"He is looking for ways to make sure we... do a better job on that front," he told reporters.

Mr Gates' deputy, Gordon England, has issued a memo to US commanders, warning them they that are responsible for overseeing contractors.

The Pentagon wants to ensure "that the means we have to enforce contracts or enforce the rules are abundantly clear to commanders", he said.

The memo is also intended to make sure the military has the resources in place "to make sure they hold people accountable for any misdeeds", he added.

The contractors are currently granted immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law by Order 17 of the Coalition Provisional Authority - the now-defunct interim body set up by the US-led coalition in the wake of the fall of Saddam Hussein.

The agreement was extended shortly before the CPA was disbanded in June 2004.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Speed reins in hype over Twenty20

The reception by the public, the media and the players has exceeded our expectations

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed on the World Twenty20

The meteoric success of the first World Twenty20 will not lead to fewer 50-overs-a-side matches, insists the International Cricket Council.

There have been calls to drop the Champions Trophy event following the successful debut of the shorter format and India's eventual victory.

But ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed told: "We are committed to the Champions Trophy in 2008 and 2010.

"We have a problem of fitting Twenty20 into the international calendar."

There will be another ICC World Twenty20 in England in 2009.

But Speed claimed 50-over internationals - such as the four-yearly World Cup, the Champions Trophy and most limited-overs series between member nations - would not diminish in importance.

He said: "Everyone is very pleased with the success of the [Twenty20] tournament.

"We thought it would be well received in South Africa, and the reception by the public, the media and the players has exceeded our expectations.

"I don't agree with much of the criticism about the last two World Cups, although some of it is valid.

"But in any event we're very pleased that we've had a very successful event."

The World Cup in the Caribbean earlier in 2007 was criticised for having draconian regulations for spectators and half-empty grounds due to high ticket prices.

At the World Twenty20, tickets were cheap, grounds were full, and the fans were allowed to bring in huge flags - which created a spectacular atmosphere for the final between India and Pakistan.

"There were an amazing number of flags," said Speed.

"We try to learn from previous events; the fans seem to want to bring their flags in, and express their patriotism for their country so it was great to see that."

He acknowledged that the ICC faced a challenge to fit a third format of the game into a calendar already packed with Tests and 50-over internationals.

But he confirmed that the next World Cup would be much shorter, down to five weeks from seven.

In addition, the 2008 Champions Trophy would be completed in just over two weeks.

"We are committed to the Champions Trophy," Speed insisted.

"It will be an eight-team event, with two groups of four - a short, sharp tournament with the best teams playing in Pakistan next year in September. I think that will be a great event.

"It's a terrific problem to have, now we have three forms of the game.

"As cricket administrators we are very committed to Test cricket, the primary form of the game - it's important we preserve and maintain that.

Olympic sport?

"Fifty-over one-day cricket has proved to be very popular - we have just seen in England a seven-match series with sell-outs in every venue.

"So far the policy is that we have limited the number of international Twenty20 matches each team can play - three home matches and four away matches in a year.

2008: Champions Trophy, Pakistan (50 overs per side)
2009: World Twenty20, England
2010 : Champions Trophy, West Indies
2011: World Cup, South Asia
2012-14: Two Champions Trophy and one Twenty20, or vice versa

"We'll review that but at this stage we are very comfortable with that formula."

Speed did concede that if cricket ever became an Olympic sport, Twenty20 would be the best format.

But his view that the Champions Trophy will continue, albeit in a shortened format, may well still disappoint many observers of the game.

BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew said on Monday: "I don't see how they can seriously consider running three global tournaments in a four-year cycle.

"Something has to go and hopefully the Champions Trophy will get cut."

But the ICC was roundly applauded for its handling of the World Twenty20.

The Independent's cricket correspondent, Stephen Brenkley, said on Test Match Special: "I would go so far as to say it's world cricket reborn, and most importantly the players have embraced it as well."

Burmese protesters defy warning

Tens of thousands of monks and civilians in Burma's main city Rangoon have defied military warnings and staged new anti-government protests.

Some chanted "we want dialogue". Others simply shouted "democracy, democracy".

Earlier, lorries with loudspeakers warned residents that the protests could be "dispersed by military force".

After the march finished, eyewitnesses told two news agencies they had seen several military trucks moving on Rangoon's streets.


1. Shwedagon Pagoda. Tens of thousands of protesters, led by monks, gathered here at start of march

2. Sule Pagoda. Students joined the protest, passing nearby city hall

Reuters reported that eight trucks carrying armed riot police and 11 carrying troops had moved into the city centre.

The security forces stayed in the vehicles while a few hundred people looked on, AFP said.

Tens of thousands of monks and supporters had earlier marched from Shwedagon pagoda into the commercial centre of Rangoon, where they gathered around Sule pagoda and nearby city hall, witnesses told AFP.

Protesters addressed the crowd outside city hall.

"National reconciliation is very important for us... The monks are standing up for the people," proclaimed poet Aung Way.

One monk told the Associated Press: "People do not tolerate the military government any longer."

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says monks - who have been spearheading the protest campaign - have been handing out pictures of Burmese independence hero Aung San, the deceased father of detained opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

They were also carrying flags, including some bearing the image of a fighting peacock used by students during the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, witnesses told Reuters.

Students were also openly marching, says the BBC Burmese Service. In earlier marches they had simply formed a chain and clapped.

15 Aug: Junta doubles fuel prices, sparking protests
5 Sept: Troops injure several monks at a protest in Pakokku
17 Sept: The junta's failure to apologise for the injuries draws fresh protests by monks
18-21 Sept: Daily marches by monks in Burmese cities gradually gather in size
22 Sept: 1,000 monks march to the home of Aung San Suu Kyi in Rangoon
23 Sept: Up to 20,000 march in Rangoon
24 Sept: New Rangoon march draws at least 50,000 and 24 other towns join in

"Some students are in the middle of exams at this time," one of the students told the BBC. "But they have left their exam rooms and come out onto the streets, joining hands with the public, fighting for the country under the guidance of the monks."

The junta, which violently repressed the 1988 protests killing some 3,000 people, finally broke its silence over the mounting protests late on Monday, saying it was ready to "take action" against the monks.

It repeated the warning on state media, ordering monks not to get involved in politics and accusing them of allowing themselves to be manipulated by the foreign media.

International reaction

At the opening of the UN General Assembly in New York, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Burma's rulers to exercise restraint in the face of the growing protests.

US President George W Bush is to use his speech - due shortly - to announce further sanctions against Burma's ruling military junta, the White House has said.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

India beat Pakistan in the Final of Twenty20 World Cup

THE bowler was Sharma. It was the last over of a final. A six would have done it. The echoes of history thundered through the souls of every spectator aware of the annals of Pakistan-India matches.

Alas, for Misbah-ul-Haq it was not to be. No Miandad moment for him. Pakistan’s premier batsman in the tournament almost saved his team from a self-inflicted disaster, yet he will regret forever his decision to chip a slowish delivery over fine leg. On such moments are heroes made, fortunes lost, and hearts broken.

After a year that brought Pakistan cricket face to face with every controversy possible, Shoaib Malik’s young team came eyeball to eyeball with rivals India in a World Cup final.

That it was only Twenty20, the Zinger Burger of international cricket, mattered for nothing. What mattered was that Pakistan and India, the best-followed nations in the world, had recovered from their Caribbean limbo dance. Cricket in the two countries had never stooped lower but in Johannesburg it reached a height that nobody could have imagined. When this form of cricket was conceived it seemed ideal for Pakistan’s mentality, particularly the batsmen who often play as if 20 overs are too long. But it is Pakistan’s bowlers who have been the stars of this tournament.

This harks back to Pakistan’s best era in world cricket when its bowlers were always capable of keeping the team in any match. The last few years have seen an unsettled bowling attack, unable to adhere to the basics of top-class bowling. With Geoff Lawson’s arrival the bowlers have rediscovered their radar and ensured Pakistan reached the final and created a winning position.

Once again, Umar Gul was the pick of the bowlers, a mature stallion able to york and bounce the batsmen at will. These are the ancient arts of fast bowling and Gul has mastered them. He won what was supposed to be the key contest of the final, Pakistan’s tussle with Yuvraj Singh, the best batsman in the tournament undone by the best bowler.

The target was straightforward in ideal batting conditions, and Pakistan must have thought the match was won at half-time. But India fought back with tight if unspectacular bowling and Pakistan’s batsmen lost the battle of minds.

Two vital decisions turned the innings in India’s favour. First was Younis Khan’s call for a quick single immediately after Imran Nazir’s request for a runner had been rightly turned down. Nazir was run out, limping a quick single. The second misjudgement was to hold Shahid Afridi back until the pressure was too great for his brain to control the mental explosion.

There is no shame in this defeat even though it might be at the hands of Pakistan’s biggest rivals. Malik and Lawson have revived Pakistan as a force in world cricket. It is an era begun with energy, passion, discipline and much excitement.

Government counsel assaulted

ISLAMABAD, Sept 24: The lawyers’ political battle took an unpleasant turn outside the courtroom on Monday when a lawyer sprayed black paint in the face of a government counsel while he was entering the Supreme Court premises.

Advocate Ahmed Raza Qasuri was encountered by Khurshid Khan, former assistant advocate general of the NWFP, who sprayed the paint apparently to avenge his outburst against Supreme Court Bar Association president Munir A. Malik and Aitzaz Ahsan in a television talk show.

Mr Qasuri is reported to have used derogatory language against Munir Malik in the television programme on Sunday.

After the incident, Mr Qasuri rushed to the courtroom and complained about the attack. He accused the leadership of lawyers’ community of hatching a conspiracy and “rendering him blind with dangerous chemicals”.

In a pitched voice he informed the court about the incident and accused two or three associates of Aitzaz Ahsan and Munir A. Malik of attacking him.

“This is the level of tolerance of those who call themselves custodians of the law,” he deplored, adding: “From their attitude, act and conduct they wanted to cause grave injuries and harm to me by rendering me blind.

This happened within the premises of the Supreme Court where people come with dignity and confidence.”He requested the court to take strong action against the lawyer.Justice Rana Bhagwandas, heading a nine-member bench seized with a set of identical petitions against President Pervez Musharraf holding two offices, sympathised with the counsel and deprecated the incident with the observation that whosoever had done this had done a wrong thing.

He, however, ignored the request for action.“Please be seated and do these things outside the court,” Justice Bhagwandas observed when the counsel insisted that the court should take cognizance of the incident.“I am officer of this court and when the Supreme Court takes suo motu notice on applications of Allah Ditta and Chiragh Din (all and sundry), it should also take action of the incident,” Mr Qasuri said.Later in a complaint he submitted to the Registrar of the Supreme Court and the SHO of the Secretariat Police Station, Mr Qasuri accused Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir A. Malik, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Tariq Mehmud of having conspired against him.

The motive of the attack, he said, was his objection to the appointment of Aitzaz Ahsan as amicus curiae on the ground that he was not a neutral person and his stance against President Musharraf was widely known.He said he had also said that the so-called movement of the lawyers had been launched “at the behest of foreign governments”.

“Today’s attack is a reaction to that bold stand taken by me against delinquent lawyers who are bringing bad name to the noble profession of law by taking law into their hands.”Tariq Mehmood condemned the incident but said that one should take care of his own dignity and respect.

Munawer Azeem adds: The Secretariat Police Station on Monday registered a case against prominent lawyers, including Aitzaz Ahsan, on the complaint of Ahmed Raza Qasuri under PPC 337-L (injuring persons during a brawl) and PPC 109 (abetting in a crime).The Deputy Superintendent of Police, Secretariat Circle, Gulfam Nasir, confirmed that Khursheed Khan, Aitzaz Ahsan, Munir A. Malik, Ali Ahmed Kurd and Tariq Mehmood had been nominated in the FIR.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pakistan, India seek redemption in dream final

Pakistan, India seek redemption in dream final

Action begins at 5:00pm (PST)

JOHANNESBURG, Sept 23: The young guns of India and Pakistan will square off in a dream final of the Twenty20 World Championship on Monday at the culmination of a tournament which has changed the face of cricket.

After a clinical Pakistan performance saw off the challenge of New Zealand at Cape Town in the first of two semi-finals on Saturday, India recorded a stunning victory in Durban against the previously all-conquering Australians.

Less than six months after both sides returned in disgrace from the 50-over World Cup, they now have a perfect opportunity for redemption, albeit with vastly different line-ups since their early departure from the Caribbean.

Rookie Pakistan skipper Shoaib Malik and incoming India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni have the chance to lift a major trophy after a tournament that has packed in more thrills and close finishes in a fortnight than six weeks in the West Indies.

After another six-packed batting performance propelled his side to victory against Australia, India’s hero Yuvraj Singh declared that a match against arch-rivals Pakistan was the icing on the cake.

“India-Pakistan is always a huge competition. It’s just like a dream for us,” said Yuvraj after smashing 70 off just 30 balls.With fellow master-blasters Dhoni and Pakistan’s Shahid Afridi both due to take the field at the batsman-friendly Wanderers here, a sell-out crowd on what is a bank holiday in South Africa can expect another run-fest.Dhoni’s swashbuckling style is in stark contrast to that of his predecessor as captain, Rahul ‘The Wall’ Dravid, who was rested for the tournament along with India’s other long-time star batsmen Sachin Tendulkar and Saurav Ganguly.

After so often being crushed by the weight of expectations from their vast fanbase, India’s new generation has been revelling in the role of underdogs.“We never started out as favourites, nobody expected us to reach the semi-finals,” said Dhoni after victory over the Australians.“You can expect a healthy rivalry over there (against Pakistan in Johannesburg) and a tough game of cricket.”

Victory for Pakistan would be even more unexpected and mark a dramatic reversal in fortunes after a year of hell for India’s neighbours.After a drugs scandal and defeat to Ireland in the World Cup, even worse was to follow with the death in Jamaica of their coach Bob Woolmer who was initially presumed to have been murdered.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq then quit, star batsman Mohammad Yousuf was cast adrift for signing up to a rebel Twenty20 tournament and controversy even continued to dog the team in South Africa with controversial speedster Shoaib Akhtar sent home for assaulting a team-mate on the eve of the tournament.

The 25-year-old Shoaib Malik however has been a breath of fresh air, inspiring Pakistan to become arguably the sharpest fielders in the competition.While Inzamam was famously inept between the wickets, Shoaib volunteered to act as a runner when Imran Nazir pulled a hamstring against the Kiwis.

Shoaib has been trying to keep his team’s feet on the ground but believes that victory is within their grasp.

“In Pakistan we have lots of talent which, Insha Allah, we are going to utilise and, Insha Allah, the Pakistan team will be number one very soon.”

Victory over India would make Shoaib the skipper of the first Pakistan team to ever beat their arch rivals in a major international tournament.

The only other time they have played each other in a final was back in Australia in 1985 when India won the World Championship of Cricket in Melbourne.

Teams (from):

PAKISTAN: Shoaib Malik (captain), Imran Nazir, Mohammad Hafeez, Younis Khan, Shahid Afridi, Misbah-ul-Haq, Fawad Alam, Kamran Akmal, Sohail Tanvir, Umar Gul, Mohammad Asif, Yasir Arafat, Salman Butt, Rao Iftikhar, Abdul Rehman.

INDIA: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (captain), Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Robin Uthappa, Yuvraj Singh, Rohit Sharma, Dinesh Karthik, Irfan Pathan, Harbhajan Singh, Joginder Sharma, R.P. Singh, Shantakumaran Sreesanth, Ajit Agarkar, Yusuf Pathan, Piyush Chawla.

Umpires: Simon Taufel (Australia) and Mark Benson (England).

TV umpire: Daryl Harper (Australia).Match referee: Ranjan Madugalle (Sri Lanka).

Israelis declare Gaza 'hostile'

The Israeli government has declared the Gaza Strip a "hostile entity" in response to the continued rocket attacks by Palestinian militants there.

Israeli officials told the BBC fuel and electricity supplies could be targeted, but not water, food or medicine.

The militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, said such a move would be considered a declaration of war.

In Jerusalem, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also said the US considered Hamas a "hostile entity".

But she added that the US "would not abandon the innocent Palestinians" of Gaza.

I call for Israel to reconsider this decision
Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary General

Ms Rice arrived in Jerusalem on Wednesday for talks about re-starting the Middle East peace process.

Israeli public pressure for retaliation has grown since a rocket fired from Gaza hit an army base last Tuesday, injuring 69 troops.

Palestinian militant groups say the rocket fire is a response to Israeli military action in Gaza and the West Bank.

International law

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's office said his security cabinet had approved the "hostile entity" classification on Wednesday morning.

It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people
Fawzi Barhoum
Hamas spokesman

"Additional restrictions will be imposed on the Hamas regime, limiting the transfer of goods to the Gaza Strip, cutting back fuel and electricity, and restricting the movement of people," a statement said.

It said the sanctions would be implemented "following a legal review" to examine the legal and humanitarian consequences.

Israeli officials reportedly hope the new measures will put pressure on Hamas, which ousted its rivals Fatah to seize control of Gaza in June, to halt rocket attacks on southern Israel.

A spokesman for Hamas in Gaza, Fawzi Barhoum, condemned the decision.

"It is a declaration of war and continues the criminal, terrorist Zionist actions against our people," he said.

"They aim to starve our people and force them to accept humiliating formulas that could emerge from the so-called November peace conference," he added, referring to the US-sponsored talks expected later this year.

The Palestinian Information Minister, Riyad al-Malki, said the Palestinian Authority would ask the US to "pressure Israel to refrain from taking such action".

Correspondents say that by formally declaring Gaza "hostile", Israel could argue that it is no longer bound by international law governing the administration of occupied territory to supply utilities to its 1.5 million inhabitants.

But the current position is that, under international law, Israel remains legally responsible for the coastal strip, despite withdrawing two years ago, because it still controls Gaza's borders, airspace and territorial waters.

An Israeli government source told the BBC that Israel believed the decision was entirely legal in terms of Israeli law, which Israelis "correlate with international law".

But UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged Israel to reconsider its decision.

"Such a step would be contrary to Israel's obligations towards the civilian population [of Gaza] under international humanitarian and human rights law," he said.

The Israeli move will only be seen by Palestinians as a form of collective punishment and risks consolidating support for Hamas in Gaza, BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says.

Two-state solution

Ms Rice is in the Middle East for talks ahead of the peace conference.

She is due to meet Mr Olmert and the Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

With US encouragement, the two recently held a series of face-to-face meetings.

After their last meeting on 10 September, both leaders reaffirmed their commitment to a two-state solution and agreed to set up negotiating teams to discuss some of the disputed issues.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Grant says he is in full control

New Chelsea manager Avram Grant insists he will be his own man after taking over from Jose Mourinho.

Grant, 52, said Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich would not interfere in the football side of the club, despite his breakdown in relations with Mourinho.

Grant, who was the club's director of football, said his goal was to win titles with attractive football.

"I'm a person of my own. I've taken all my decisions in football on my own. If we lose, it's down to me," he said.

"I have full respect for what Jose Mourinho did in the past and I want to follow this success and make things of my own.

"But football is also entertainment. We need to win games and win trophies but we need to play positive football."

Mourinho stepped down by mutual consent and was quickly replaced by Grant, who will continue to work with Steve Clarke as assistant manager.

Chelsea chairman Bruce Buck denied that Israeli Grant was appointed because he was a personal friend of Abramovich.

"Roman Abramovich doesn't make important appointments on a whim or because someone is a friend," said Buck.

"He's a very successful businessman and in conjunction with the board this was a thoughtful decision and was based on merit.

"When we offered this job to Avram on Wednesday he wanted assurances that he was his own man and he was in charge of the team.

"Myself, Peter [Kenyon], Eugene [Tenenbaum, Chelsea director] and Roman Abramovich were all in the room and we all agreed 100% that he is in charge."

Chief executive Kenyon said the last six months had been difficult as the relationship between owner and manager deteriorated, but denied that interference from Abramovich had led to Mourinho leaving.

He said: "I've been involved in every transaction since Roman and Jose came together and there has never been a point where we have bought a player without the (manager's) full approval and knowledge.

"There has never been a point where we instructed our first-team coach to play a player or play a player in a particular formation. It is so far fetched that that concept would work with any coach I would know."

The players came out before training this morning and made it clear they are supportive of moving forwards

Peter Kenyon

Abramovich and Mourinho are said to have fallen out over the purchase of Andriy Shevchenko and the manager's subsequent handling of the £31m forward.

But Kenyon added: "Shevchenko was purchased on the back of a decision by the owner, the board and the manager."

Buck admitted that Grant's record did not compare with Mourinho's, but said: "It is very important in a relationship between a manager and an owner that there is mutual confidence over the vision, strategy and approach of a club.

"Avram's vision is in tune with ours and we think he can take the club forward."

Grant has yet to be offered a formal contract but Kenyon insisted the appointment is on a permanent basis.

Chelsea's first test under Grant comes on Sunday when his side travel to Old Trafford to meet reigning Premier League champions Manchester United.

Bonds to part company with Giants

Home run record holder Barry Bonds will leave the San Francisco Giants at the end of the season after the club decided not to renew his contract.

"Although I am disappointed, I've always said baseball is a business and I respect their decision," the 43-year-old told his personal website.

Bonds, who beat Hank Aaron's all-time record of 755 home runs in August, added he had no intention of retiring.

"There is more baseball in me and I plan on continuing my career," he said.

"My quest for a World Series ring continues."

Unfortunately for Bonds, his record-breaking feat has been overshadowed by claims he has used steroids.

The left-hander has never tested positive for drug use and denies knowingly taking performance-enhancing substances.

Nevertheless, he has been dogged by rumours since his home run tally took off after he turned 35, moving past the legendary Babe Ruth into second place in May last year with his 715th career home run.

Bonds added that he regretted not knowing he would be leaving the Giants sooner so he could say a proper goodbye to club's fans.

"I don't have nor do I want any ill feelings towards the organisation," he said.

"I just wish I had known sooner so we had more time to say our goodbyes and celebrate the best 15 years of my life."

Bonds hit his 756th homer in the game against the Washington Nationals on 7 August.

Broadband speeds under scrutiny

Broadband speeds in the UK are much slower than advertised by internet service providers, a study by Computeractive magazine has found.

Some 3,000 readers took part in speed tests and 62% found they routinely got less than half of the top speed advertised by their provider.

It is the latest in a series of questions over the way net firms advertise broadband services.

Regulator Ofcom said it was aware of the issue and was "investigating".

Testing times

The figures were gathered from more than 100,000 speed tests that the 3,000 respondents carried out to build up a picture of their average net-browsing speed on ADSL lines.

Statistics about net users in the UK show that half of current broadband users receive ADSL services that should run at speeds between one and four megabits per second (mbps).

The other 50% are on deals offering up to eight mbps but the tests revealed that, in reality, very few achieve the top speeds.

"This problem has been building for a while with a growing gulf between what is advertised and what is delivered," said Paul Allen, editor of Computeractive.

"The adverts often have super-fast broadband in huge lettering with the "up to" clause in very small print," he said.

"Users who have taken the test were surprised at the size of the gulf," he added.

Some 28% of the 3,000 respondents who took the ADSL speed test found that they received less than a quarter of their maximum advertised bandwidth.

While consumers may currently not notice their sluggish connections, this could change thinks Mr Allen.

"Previously it has not been a massive issue but in the coming year we are entering the net TV age and video content is bandwidth-hungry," he said.

Mr Allen called on regulator Ofcom to provide an independent speed test to anyone who has signed up to receive broadband.

Speaking for the telecommunications watchdog, a spokesman said: "We are looking at this issue.
It is not a huge driver of complaints but it has come on to our radar screen."

"It's about the difference between the headline rate and the rate received," he said.

The spokesman said Ofcom was working with the net industry and other organisations such as Which to investigate the extent of the problem and what can be done about it.

"Once we have carried out this work we will assess what options might be available to tackle it," he said.
The results of the investigation would be made available in the "near future", said the spokesman.

Fast chance

Research by market analysts Point Topic sugggests that, in many areas of the UK, few people will be able to get the fastest broadband speeds.

Only 5% of the population will be able to enjoy speeds of 18Mbps. More than half will only be able to get 8Mbps.

Ofcom was also working with the Advertising Standards Authority to keep an eye on how net service firms word their marketing materials.

"We make sure broadband advertising does not advertise speeds that cannot be guaranteed," he said. "They have to make it clear that there is a best possible speed rather than an average speed."

The ASA has investigated several cases of misleading promotions, most recently asking Bulldog to make it clear in its adverts that speed was dependent on how far away from the exchange people lived.

It ruled that broadband providers could use the words "up to" 8Mbps when describing services as long as customers were likely to get close to those speeds.

A survey last month by consumer group Which found that consumers with services promising speeds of up to 8Mbps were actually getting an average speed of 2.7Mbps.

There are many variables that determine the speed of a connection, including how far away from the telephone exchange the line is, how many others are using the line at the same time and the quality of the wiring within a home.

The tool used in the study is available for download from the Computeractive website. It was developed by advice service Broadband Choice.

Computeractive has also launched an e-petition on the Downing Street website, asking the government to force net service firms to provide clear information about the typical speed users will receive alongside the maximum speed.